A Lovely Waste of Time
Sometimes I need to re-examine my priorities. Chores, bills, work and other responsibilities – I tend to take them too seriously. A little of this a lot of that… and the next thing I know I’m bogged down in a great big pile of pointless grownup stuff.
The old dog has been doing a wonderful job lately of showing me what is, and is not, important.
My husband and I have taken to spoiling the old fellow a bit. Well, OK. More than a bit. But we adore the old fellow and it doesn’t look like we’ll have the chance to do it for a lot longer. Age and an entire Minnesota smorgasbord of health problems are taking their toll. I doubt he’ll make it to summer.
The wonderful thing is that he’s a dog and utterly unaware of his mortality. He seems to be utterly convinced that he will heal to roam the hills with me again. And I’m quite happy to indulge him in that fantasy.
Tonight the old fellow, the pup and I went out for what was to be a short evening constitutional (i.e. poop break). It was a calm, quiet, warm (30 degree F) night. Our house sits at the end of a very long drive on a hillside overlooking a steep ravine and creek near the Mississippi River. Hardwood forest, cliffs, creek and scrub – it’s a great place for wildlife.
Being a clueless, impatient human who thought she had other, more important, priorities (laundry, bills, correspondence) my goal was a quick potty break and return to the house. Zorro had a different agenda.
We walked next door to the training center. I tied up a few loose ends, gave the boys each a liver snack and planned to head right back to the house. I was about a third of the way there when the old fellow stopped and gently blocked me from going any farther. The old guy is not terribly steady on his feet any more, so when he moved in front of me I had to either stop, or knock him over. So of course I stopped.
As I did, he looked up at me with a very calm, very serious gaze. He distinctly made eye contact, and then pointedly looked up the hill. It was a look that said “there’s something important up there – look!”
So, of course I followed that important gaze.
On a quiet night a lot of sounds punctuate the night air at our place. Tonight I heard the creek roaring with spring runoff. I heard a distant freight train. Trucks, probably hauling grain, on the highway a few miles away. Then, just faintly – coyotes. Right exactly where the old dog’s nose was pointed.
We sat for a while together. The old guy leaned comfortably against my thigh. It was a quiet, dark, starless night that made the world seem a bit smaller and more intimate than the crystal clear, bitingly cold nights we’ve had until just recently. The two of us stood together and listened to the coyotes sing far away.
And then he turned. With a quizzical look the old dog leaned out and looked around me to the woods along the creek – and I heard it too. A barred owl calling. Soft, muted. In the bit of pine forest behind the training center
The owl called just a few times then continued his hunt. The coyotes went on to sing a long, complex song. They were interrupted once by deer bleating on the hillside above us. The puppy heard them and barked once (silly puppy) and we heard crashing sounds of brush and corn snow as they ran for cover.
A quick potty break had turned into an hour long symphony of night sounds. Beautiful sounds and experiences I would have missed if it wasn’t for an old dog with a ruined body and a strong and resilient soul.
The laundry, the bills and all those other banal responsibilities of day to day life will still be there tomorrow. Why should I waste time on them when the coyotes, the owl, the deer – and my wonderful old dog – might not?
It was a lovely waste of time.